Pac-12: Akili Smith
- The best teams of 2012 return their quarterbacks
- The best passers are returning
- A diverse array of NFL talent
- Little QB turnover in SEC
- Award winners back on campus
We're going to take this and, point-by-point, give it a Pac-12 rinse.
Thus, it's not by chance that the five of the bottom six in the power rankings have an ongoing quarterback competition. That's not to say that a school like USC, which has too much talent to be sitting in the bottom half of the rankings, can't quickly make a jump to the top once their quarterback situation is resolved.
And the same goes for No. 6 Oregon State -- which is fortunate to have two capable starters competing. I don't know who first opined that if you have two quarterbacks, you don't have one. I don't buy it. Ask any coach in the bottom half of the power rankings if they'd prefer zero quarterbacks who have won games or two. I think we all know the answer.
The best passers are returning: Yep. Marcus Mariota led the Pac-12 in efficiency and Taylor Kelly wasn't far behind. Matt Barkley was third, Brett Hundley was fourth and Sean Mannion was fifth. However, it's worth noting that Kevin Hogan's efficiency would have ranked him slightly above Hundley had he appeared in more games in 2012 (the cutoff was appearing in 75 percent of the games, Hogan was at 71). That means five of the top six quarterbacks in efficiency are back.
A diverse array of NFL talent: Yep. Anyone who thinks Mariota is just a running quarterback failed to witness his 32 touchdown passes and league-best 68.5 completion percentage. He will fit nicely into any NFL offense.
Same for Kelly (29 touchdowns, 67.1 completion percentage) and Hundley (29, 66.5). Hogan should be well-versed in the pro-style attack (and NFL scouts love quarterbacks who know the pro-style/West Coast coming out of college) and if Mannion (if he wins the job) bounces back, he's got the prototypical NFL pro-style frame.
And let's not forget Keith Price, who we're expecting to have a nice bounce-back year. He was extremely efficient in 2011 (33, 66.9) so the potential and athleticism is obviously there.
Little QB turnover in the league: Well, the Pac-12 can't make that claim with six starting jobs still in doubt and potentially five schools starting a fresh-faced QB.
Award winners back on campus: Yep. Pac-12 Freshman Offensive Player of the Year (Mariota). First-team quarterback (Mariota). Kelly, Hogan and Hundley were honorable mention.
While it's true that this might shape up as one of the greatest years in college football history for quarterbacks, it's equally true that the Pac-12 might have its best crop of quarterbacks in league history.
The Pac-12 has sent at least one quarterback to the NFL since 1995 and at least one has gone in the first round in nine of the past 16 drafts. There was 2003 when Carson Palmer (USC) and Kyle Boller (Cal) both went in the first round. 1999 was a strong year with Akili Smith (Oregon) and Cade McNown (UCLA) going in the first round and Brock Huard (Washington) going in the third. Three times the Pac-12 has had four quarterbacks go in the draft (2005, 1991 and 1989).
2004 comes to mind as a pretty darn good collection with Aaron Rodgers (Cal), Matt Leinart (USC), Derek Anderson (Oregon State), Andrew Walter (ASU), Kellen Clemens (Oregon), Trent Edwards (Stanford), Drew Olson (UCLA) and Alex Brink (Washington State).
It's a little too early to start speculating about who is going to go and who is going to stay. But based on what we've seen from this crop in the past nine months, it's possible the 2013 class will be right up there in the conversation as one of the best collection of quarterbacks ever in the league.
For one, no one has any idea who the 2011 starter will be, an uncertainty that has been rare since coach Jeff Tedford took over in 2002. Tedford announced last week that he'd reduced the candidates list from five to three -- senior Brock Mansion, junior Buffalo transfer Zach Maynard and sophomore Allan Bridgford -- but it's unlikely that troika will be winnowed to one until late in preseason camp.
Tedford will call plays this fall and he has been heavily involved with the quarterbacks this spring. He attends all position meetings and spends plenty of practice time with the QBs and new assistant Marcus Arroyo.
Tedford is as aware as anyone that bouncing back from a down campaign -- his first losing season in nine years in Berkeley -- will require at least solid play at quarterback.
"For us to get back to 10- or 11-win seasons, we have to have better play at the quarterback position," he said.
So far, no quarterback has asserted himself.
Mansion, due to experience, would in most situations be considered the front-runner. But he didn't do well in four starts after replacing Riley. His efficiency rating ranked last in the Pac-10 by a wide margin, and he threw five interceptions with just two TDs.
Said Tedford: "You can tell that Brock is better because of the experience he had last year. He's more comfortable. And he's even learned some things physically. You can see the maturity there a little bit. Still not where we need to be."
More than a few folks believe Maynard, the best athlete of the three and half-brother to standout receiver Keenan Allen, to be the front-runner. As a sophomore starter at Buffalo in 2009, he completed 57.5 percent of his passes for 2,694 yards and 18 touchdowns with 15 interceptions and added 455 yards rushing and one TD.
Said Tedford: "He does have some athleticism. He can make plays with his legs. He throws the ball accurately. He can throw all the balls on the field. He's a lefty. He can throw the deep ball. He's got zip on the ball. His main thing is just going to be the mental part of understanding our offense and understanding what we're looking for."
Tedford also said that the Bears' offense has some spread-option elements it could adapt for Maynard.
Bridgford is reputed to be a strong pure passer, but he's coming back from shoulder surgery and his mobility also is an issue. The scuttlebutt is he's presently in third place and could be challenged by redshirt freshman Austin Hinder, who Tedford said was a strong No. 4.
Said Tedford of Bridgford: "Smart guy. Can throw the ball. He can throw all the balls on the field. Escape dimension? Haven't seen that yet. That's a concern, but he's not a lead foot by any means."
Trying to figure out where things stand isn't easy. Even Allen clings to neutrality, at least publicly. And players appear to be as in the dark as fans about who will prevail.
"I know you guys all want to know that -- we all want to know as well," offensive tackle Mitchell Schwartz said. "I have a lot of confidence in the coaching staff. They are going to put the right guy on the field."
It's been a while since Tedford and Cal found the "right" guy to put behind center. The Bears' success in 2011 probably hangs on Tedford rediscovering his inner QB Yoda.
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To the notes.
Nathan from Boston writes: You mentioned that Jeff Tedford's not quite on the hot seat, and it coincides with Aaron Rodgers' rise to the Super Bowl. Clearly, Rodgers should have gotten more credit for what the did at Cal and gotten drafted higher. Perhaps, it was Rodgers giving to Tedford rather than the other way around, as was the perception. Furthermore, Tedford is in a perfect area for recruiting. So, I think he's very overrated, and question why he's not "firmly" on the hot seat.
Ted Miller: The Bay Area is the "perfect" area for recruiting? Neh. It's decent, probably underrated, in fact, but there are parts of Florida, Texas, Southern California, Louisiana and Georgia I'd rate as just a bit more perfect.
And Tedford's reputation wasn't built just on Rodgers, who is one of six quarterbacks he coached who became first-round NFL draft picks, the others being Kyle Boller, David Carr, Trent Dilfer, Joey Harrington and Akili Smith. And those guys' fair-to-lousy levels of success in the NFL suggests, in fact, that Tedford might be "giving" more than he is "receiving."
That said, Tedford's run of quarterbacks has dried up of late, consider Joe Ayoob, Nate Longshore, Kevin Riley and the late-season performance of Brock Mansion in 2010 (though let's recall that at one point Longshore looked like a future first-round draft pick before he lost his mojo).
As for Rodgers, his extended marinating on the Green Bay bench probably served him well. Instead of being thrust into service as a rookie or first-year player, Rodgers was able to learn the nuances of the NFL game over three seasons before becoming the starter.
While I don't see Tedford as being on the "hot seat" -- barring an absolute disaster, I think he'll be back as the Bears coach in 2012 -- he does deserve increased scrutiny. His transformation of the program, which was 1-10 the season before he arrived in 2002, was impressive. Cal, however, now has higher expectations -- expectations beyond seven or eight wins and certainly beyond the 5-7 finish in 2010. And a quick glance at the Bears' depth chart and their schedule in 2011 doesn't suggest a bounce back to nine or so wins.
On the other hand, the defense perked up under Clancy Pendergast last year, recruiting is going extremely well, and the return of offensive line coach Jim Michalczik (not official yet) and receivers coach Eric Kiesau feels like Tedford is reconnecting to his glory days. If the Bears find the right quarterback, they will be formidable again going forward.
But, yes, it is fair to say that Tedford is no longer untouchable.
Justin from Omaha writes: What would be a successful first year in the Pac-12 for the Buffaloes? I am excited for the 2011 season but, I have know idea what to expect. I don't think they are South contenders but, is being maybe 3 or 4 a possibility?
Ted Miller: Would you think less of me if I said I'm with you: I don't know what to expect.
The only Colorado game I watched in its entirety last season was the 52-7 beatdown defeat at California. Justin from Butte, Mont., wrote last week that I might be weighing that game too heavily, and I agree with him. But I also noted that the Buffaloes have a new coach, new staff, a questionable defense and a bit of uncertainty at quarterback.
Colorado is not a "Little Sisters of the Poor" program, and old Pac-10 fans who think the Buffaloes aren't going to be competitive from the get-go are probably going to be surprised. They were competitive last year in the Big 12 and beat Georgia. While my initial feeling is the Buffs won't end up bowl-eligible and will fall toward the bottom of the South Division in 2011, I also wouldn't be shocked if they scrapped their way to around .500.
George from Phoenix writes: Please put out the wildfire of ASU hype and stellar predictions for next year! I'm already seeing reports of us taking the South and potentially more. I'm having flashbacks of DE yr 2 pre season. "We went 10-3 in DE's first year, will be roses the next", etc, etc, etc...thud!Don't most teams have a build up / ok year before hitting it big? Ore had a good year, then roses, then NC. Isn't that how it usually happens?
Ted Miller: No. Sorry. I am hyping.
I like the Sun Devils' offensive line (imagine that!). I like the skill positions and speed on both sides of the ball. I think either quarterback, Brock Osweiler or Steven Threet, can win games. I have a feeling linebacker Vontaze Burfict grows up next fall and becomes an All-American and NFL first-round pick. I like Omar Bolden as a shut-down cornerback with leadership skills. I like Junior Onyeali as a super young talent at end.
I worry a little about depth at defensive tackle with the departure of Lawrence Guy, but not that much.
This team is nothing like 2008, a team with HUGE questions on the offensive line. The Sun Devils should win the South and end up ranked in the top-25.
Again, sorry for the hype.
Shane from Corvallis, Ore., writes: I know quiz was a great teammate and player. and maybe it's just me trying to be optimistic, but any chance that quiz leaving might be addition by subtraction..., i was thinking that maybe quiz leaving will force Riley and company to modify their game style for the better.
Ted Miller: Shane, I like the effort but you, my friend, are reeeeaaaaching!
Jacquizz Rodgers is a dynamic weapon because he's such a complete player: He runs, he catches, he blocks and he's a great locker room guy. The Beavers will not be better because he's gone. Not saying they are going to stink without him, only that if Rodgers was coming back, expectations for 2011 would be much higher.
The problems in 2010 had nothing to do with Jacquizz.
- Breaking in a new quarterback. Even though Ryan Katz has notable talent, the Beavers offense has, historically, been hard on first-year starters.
- Bad-to-mediocre offensive line play. The Beavers' line took a step back last year. It must improve for 2011 to turn out better.
- James Rodgers gets hurt in he fifth game. Recall that the Beavers were 3-2 -- with road losses to TCU and Boise State -- and won at Arizona with Rodgers. No way the Beavers fail to reach a bowl game if he never got hurt.
- Defensive inconsistency. It seemed like the Beavers lacked a dynamic guy in their front seven, other than defensive tackle Stephen Paea.
Finally, the depth chart behind Rodgers is unproven. The Beavers always seem to find a running back. But, at present, we really don't know who that will be.
Aaron from Flagstaff, Ariz., writes: Just wondering how you would figure out how many recruits your college can get each year. I thought ASU was very limited, and now we are at 17 recruits.
Ted Miller: Two rules: 85 total players on scholarship, 25 per recruiting class.
(And if you want to read a great story about how coaches fiddle with these rules by "oversigning," check out Andy Staples' story here).
Arizona State had a very small senior class, which was why the 2011 recruiting class was -- and still is, really -- expected to be small. At the end of the process, you still can only give out 85 scholarships per team, per year.
But there's been some roster attrition -- quarterback Samson Szakacsy, defensive tackle Lee Adams, cornerback Josh Jordan and tight end Steven Figueroa have left the program -- and two players listed with this year's class, quarterback Mike Bercovici and punter Josh Hubner, are already enrolled.
Doing roster math from the outside isn't easy because there are always things going on "inside." But, unless you want to get highly detailed, just understand the numbers 85 and 25.
Greg from Seattle writes: Hey Ted, did you ever see this?
Ted Miller: Pretty darn polished by Washington running back Johri Fogerson.
- Arizona's pro day features prospects and hopefuls.
- Hero Pat Tillman's legacy: Helping vets go to college. More academic honors for former Arizona State LB Mike Nixon.
- Lots of good notes from California's first spring practice, including one on former Oregon QB Akili Smith becoming a graduate assistant.
- More on Oregon State receiver Darrell Catchings getting an extra year of eligibility.
- Is former UCLA defensive tackle Brian Price slipping in the NFL draft?
- More USC players to watch this spring.
- Breaking down Washington's pro day -- former Huskies are improving their stock.
- A look at Washington State's cornerbacks heading into spring.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
There are some things which cannot be learned quickly, and time, which is all we have, must be paid heavily for their acquiring. They are the very simplest things and because it takes a man's life to know them the little new that each man gets from life is very costly and the only heritage he has to leave.
- A sad story: Former Arizona offensive lineman Bill Wacholz died in his sleep last week.
- Arizona State has received a commitment from a top JC receiver.
- California's Sandy Barbour has been named one of four regional Under Armour Athletic Directors of the Year by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA).
- Buy your Oregon tickets ... now!
- More from a recent Oregon State quarterback commitment.
- Considering San Jose State's decision to back out of a game at Stanford in favor of a visit to Alabama.
- Two UCLA transfers have found their destinations, but the Bruins also picked up a commitment with big-time USC ties. By the way, UCLA's game at Tennessee on Sept. 12 will kickoff at 1 p.m. (PDT) -- and will be televised by ESPN (game wasn't listed on Pac-10 TV schedule that was released yesterday).
- Tracking Washington's scholarship players.
- Why did Ryan Leaf fail so completely?
- And speaking of busts, whatever happened to Akili Smith?
- Some interesting Pac-10 recruiting notes here.